Dana Depew and Matthew Dibble Pair Up to Look at the Past

Pioneer Driven Mad with Daryl Stuermer runs through may 22, with a closing reception 6 to 10 p.m. both exhibitions and events are free and open to the public bruno casiano gallery, 5304 detroit Ave., 216-346-6562, brunocasiano.com

If you're making the monthly foray over to Third Fridays at 78th Street Studios, be sure to wander over to Bruno Casiano in Gordon Square as well. From 6 to 10 p.m., the gallery will be hosting a reception for new work from four local artists: Dana Depew and Matthew Dibble, as well as Dean Shaffer and Barney Taxel.

Casiano's main gallery space hosts Depew and Dibble's Pioneer Driven Mad, an exhibition showcasing Depew's latest installation work and Dibble's newest, large-scale paintings.

Depew and Dibble make very different work, but both have long established themselves as two of the most active and prolific artists in the region. The pairing makes for interesting viewing.

For Pioneer Driven Mad, Depew has created a life-size, functional, pioneer chuck wagon using exclusively found and reclaimed materials.

"This installation will include an audio and video element consisting of footage from Western movies enclosed in wooden boxes stacked on the gallery floor," explains Depew. "The chuck wagon will serve chili, baked beans, and corn bread at the opening, so bring your appetite."

Depew found additional inspiration from a rather unique source — Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

Actually, to be more specific, Depew was inspired by the documentary Room 237, which offers a variety of theories concerning Kubrick's hidden symbolism in The Shining.

"The Shining has been long believed to be about the genocide of Native Americans, because there is imagery throughout the film associated with the American West," explains Depew. "For instance, cans of Calumet Baking Powder are noticeable in the background of two important scenes. Because a calumet is a peace pipe, and the cans featured the image of a Native American, one analyst believed that American imperialism was the subtext of the film."

For example, Depew re-contextualizes a can of Calumet baking soda in homage to Marcel Duchamp's ready-mades and titles the piece, "Kubrick Readymade (The Shining, 1980)."

If you've seen Room 237, you'll enjoy exploring and deciphering Depew's chuck wagon as much as the filmmakers dissected Kubrick's film. As usual, Depew's work is as intelligent as it is humorous.

"A long time ago, the early American pioneers embarked on a perilous journey of hardship in order to have a better life," reflects Depew. "They endured harsh conditions, bitter winters, and the potential of being scalped by Indians. They believed this temporary misery was all worth it. The chuck wagon was a pivotal component to the trek westward. It provided sustenance and nourishment to these hopeful travelers."

Depew found inspiration in the parallels between these frontiersmen and contemporary Clevelanders.

"Maybe someday in the distant future, we Clevelanders will be viewed as 'pioneers,'" adds Depew. "We have endured similar hardships such as brutal winters, potholes, poor public schools, government corruption, and the continual embarrassment from our local sports teams -- all because we have hope that things will get better."

Dibble's large-scale, abstract, figurative paintings are created with an assortment of techniques. The figures appear through confident, expressive brushwork over various grounds of paint and (occasionally) local newspaper clippings.

These newspapers in particular offer insight into Dibble's creative process. The stories become the backdrop for his artwork, but these same stories distract and affect the artist in profound (and often negative) ways.

"Getting away from my work for a few days, I realize I don't know what it means to be an artist," admits Dibble in his artist statement for Pioneer Driven Mad. "Life's pull is strong, and I forget my aim. Fascinated with pop culture and the desire to create wealth, I begin to fall asleep and get caught up in the grinding of life. Worries, anxieties and fears distract and hold my attention.

"A certain freedom that was once possible is far away," he continues. "Other people seem to know a secret about life and the importance of acquiring things; happily I'm ready to join them. Looking for balance and always hoping for a better tomorrow are my worst sins, not allowing me to experience my life fully."

These new paintings reflect Dibble's current thought process. The artist finds himself examining his present through thoughts of his past and future.

"This is my situation, moment to moment, day to day and year to year," explains Dibble. "Where the figures in these paintings come from is a mystery. Dominating the scene, they emerge like rebellious children seeking attention from their elders."

Dibble's expressive paintings juxtapose line, form, shape, texture and color; blurring the traditional line between abstraction and representational work.

This new work is quite ambitious in terms of both scale and techniques.

The artwork fits especially well in Casiano's beautiful space, which recently received a facelift thanks to the installation of new storefront windows.

One of the oldest surviving structures in Gordon Square, the building was originally constructed in 1867 and once functioned as a speakeasy during prohibition.

"I feel like a pioneer myself," says Casiano. "Looking back, when I first opened the gallery in 2002, Detroit Avenue was just a big open canvas awaiting a chance to create and we have been here since!

"I hope to see resurgence in the support of local artists, where people come from other places to buy art instead of going to New York or Chicago".

Casiano's "Speak Easy" Gallery, on the lower level of the building, features photography by Barney Taxel and cityscapes by painter Dean Shaffer.

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